ARLINGTON (AP) — More than 200 people packed a Texas church on Sunday to comfort one another and mourn their young pastor, who was slain during an apparent robbery in which his assistant was severely beaten.
Many cried and hugged each other as they walked into NorthPointe Baptist Church for regular services Sunday, three days after the Rev. Clint Dobson was killed. Some paused at a makeshift memorial of flowers and wreaths and others looked at a picture of Dobson, who was pastor about three years at NorthPointe, a satellite church of First Baptist Church of Arlington. Dobson's funeral is Wednesday.
The congregation sang the hymn "It Is Well With My Soul," and church leaders prayed for strength and peace.
The Rev. Dennis Wiles, First Baptist's senior pastor, said the 28-year-old Dobson had a gentle demeanor and warm spirit, and that Dobson won a top preaching award as a seminary student.
Wiles told the NorthPointe congregants that it was natural to ask questions at such a troubling time.
"Why did this happen? ... Where was God on Thursday morning? Could God have stopped this?" Wiles preached in the sanctuary, where a large cross is behind the podium. "God has not abandoned you. That's what Jesus said. ... We've got to keep believing, even when we don't understand."
A suspect the shooting, 24-year-old Steven Lawayne Nelson, was arrested Saturday by Arlington police. Police declined to say what led to Nelson's arrest and said the investigation continues. More information will be released after authorities charge him with capital murder this week, police spokeswoman Tiara Ellis Richard said Sunday. She said Nelson did not have an attorney.
No one answered the door Sunday at the apartment of one of Nelson's relatives where he had been staying.
Police have said some items were missing from the church and that robbery appears to have been the motive. Dobson was found dead and his assistant was found severely injured Thursday afternoon in the church building after relatives could not contact them.
Sunday's crowd was much larger than usual at NorthPointe, and some congregants had to sit in chairs in a hallway outside the sanctuary. The church barred news reporters from speaking to anyone who attended the service.
After the service, Wiles said it was important that the building be open Sunday — not only because it's a place of worship, but NorthPointe and First Baptist members and others in Arlington affected by the tragedy needed to be together.
"God has given us the strength to carry on," he said.
The funeral for Pastor Dobson has been set for at 10 a.m. Wednesday at First Baptist Church Arlington, 300 South Center Street.
Visitation is Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m. at Wade Funeral Home at 4140 West Pioneer Parkway in Arlington.
Dobson, 29, was murdered at NorthPointe on Thursday; an associate, 67-year-old Judy Elliott, was severely beaten.
A suspect in the case was arrested on Saturday.